Shah Rayeed Chowdhury’s riveting tales of roving the world are in perfect harmony with verses from popular travel poetry. Tawhidur Rashid shares some examples.
“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”
Questions of Travel, Elizabeth Bishop
Rayeed believes that the benefits of traveling are endless. “From my childhood, I have been a very shy person. I used to hesitate when communicating with people. But traveling, as it happened, helped me gain confidence. There were several occasions when I experienced a robbery, missed flights, etc. and overcoming those situations enabled me to tackle dire circumstances on my own. I learned how to interact with people and carry a conversation.” It helped him overcome the fear of meeting new people, talking with them, cutting new deals – all of which was a great benefit to him professionally. “Had I not traveled, Noir wouldn’t have been where it is today,” he admits candidly. “Bangladesh is a country that loves to follow trends”, he says. Attending all those fashion shows and exploring global shopping scenes fed him with the knowledge of fashion and style that has been making rounds and winning hearts. “All those wow moments actually helped me dream of a fashion brand like Noir to set up in my own country.”
Rayeed loves to make the best use of his ever-expanding pool of global friends: he asks them to show him around; to show him beyond what typical tourists would see. He never looks forward to attaining the offers travelers often fall for. Thanks to the unpredictability of his line of work, he doesn’t know where he will be tomorrow. This also encourages him not to make a bucket list. “But when a work-related travel plan pops up, I have to sit down and make a thorough itinerary, like where I will go after work, what new things I will see. I am the planner in the family. Sometimes my family members are irked by my fanaticism around planning. But it’s just something I must do to function properly.”
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.”
Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
Shah Rayeed Chowdhury, director of a popular fashion brand, Noir and Japanese franchise, Miniso travels for both passion and profession. After returning from abroad after completion of his higher studies, it dawned on him that he would get involved in a job that required a lot of traveling. He loves moving around, seeing new things and exploring new cuisines. Even during vacations, he never stops at a place for more than 3-4 days. That’s why work or no work, traveling is always on his itinerary. His father, Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury, who started the Evince group, used to travel a lot and eventually the rest of the family was bitten by the travel bug too. Thanks to him, they have been all around the world.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
Rayeed becomes a complete locavore when he is traveling, someone who indulges in the local produce and cuisine of a place. He tantalizes his taste buds with exotic foods wherever he goes. For example, a special treat he always pampers himself within Hong Kong is the renowned puffer fish. “Not every shop is allowed to sell it as processing it requires special techniques and the authority actually renders a license to only a few shops. I am lucky to know one such place, where I always love to drop in and taste the delicacy. The fish tastes like chicken and many people call it chicken fish.” Since he only eats halal food, the options are automatically narrowed. This is why whatever options are available, he always tries to taste a bit of every dish. “I have been to many places in Italy; however, the food from Venice is something that is out of this world. The pizzas are so thin and delicate, as though they will melt in your mouth. Apart from that, Raclette in New York is another place, a haven for cheese lovers, that I love visiting when I am there.”
“This City now doth, like a garment,
Wear The beauty of the morning;
Silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields and to the sky”
Composed Upon Westminister Bridge, William Wordsworth
In contrast with most frequent travelers, Rayeed likes to pack heavy. He always takes a lot of different outfits with him, with matching accessories for the photos. Usually, he can be seen donning the newest and trendiest street styles – ripped jeans, sneakers, a good watch and sunglasses. A pouch or waist bag will always be with him. For special meetings, formal or semi-formal, a nice clean shirt with a cut-away collar is his staple. “I am really into accessories. Rolex is my favorite watch brand as it holds the best value for me. Just the way it feels on the wrist is something unparalleled.” As for sneakers, he has a big collection. His current favorites are the Balenciaga Triple S and React by Nike. “Nike is really killing the game and coming up with all sorts of cool stuff.”
“Things I may not know nor tell
Wait, where older waters swell;
Ways that flowered at Sappho’s tread,
Winds that sighed in Homer’s strings,
Vibrant with the singing dead,
Golden with the dust of wings.”
Hearthside, Dorothy Parker
The Maldives to Rayeed is heaven on Earth. It was his honeymoon vacation and days spent at the Shangri-La Hotel will always remain very close to his heart. “Being a workaholic, my phone is always ringing. However, during those four days, for once in a lifetime, I was cut off from the rest of the world and I enjoyed it fully. A serene beach of white sand, renting a private yacht, scuba diving, dolphin sightseeing: for all these and more I really want to go back!”
Florence to Rayeed is the most beautiful city in the world. According to him, the city is a treasure trove for travelers who love architecture as well as the historical aspects of a city. Rayeed who is into the history and heritage of a town, exclaims: “I literally zoned out when I was amidst all those amazing buildings and streets. The people and their exuberant artsy lifestyle, one of the best thin crust Italian pizzas, the historical lanes-the way that city touched my soul, I really want to go back again and again and immerse myself into its beauty.” Now that he spends much of his creative pursuits understanding fashion, Japan is a country he would like to visit. “Many of my buyers are going to Japan to source products, to follow trends. So I also want to jump on their bandwagon.”
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”
Hans Christian Andersen
Rayeed loves adventure sports. He attempted a couple of them and has gathered his share of mind-blowing memories. He is one of those rare souls who jetskied for ten hours straight with his wife in Kuala Lumpur. Though he didn’t like doing the bungee jumping in Bangkok. “Thanks to my fear of heights, I couldn’t enjoy the bungee jump that much. Also, even though I had an opportunity to try it, I refrain from sky-diving,” he confesses.
“We find ourselves after airplane doors close
And wheels touch the heavens
We discover the maps to our hearts
When we lose the maps to this world
Wander, and find a home in the people you meet
Wander, and find the home inside yourself.”
Tyler Knott Gregson
Like all other millennials who have achieved professional success at an early age, Rayeed too has very little time for himself. “I used to draw a lot; I used to play the drums; I was deeply into photography during the student life that I had a full camera set up. With time, most of these hobbies have faded into oblivion.” After tending to his day to day business affairs as well as family and social life, it’s only traveling that provides him the much-needed escape. As soon as the plane door closes, the phone goes off and Rayeed begins to feel the taste of true freedom. “I love being alone during that time, thinking about certain things and not having to think about certain things.”
“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way,
begin no day where we have ended
another day; and no sunrise finds us where
sunset left us.”
The Farewell from the Prophet, Khalil Gibran
“I am not a blogger, but I love documenting my travels. I like the joy of sharing. I started sharing on Instagram from Noir’s account,” he explains. Eventually, he realized people were following him, making comments, asking questions. This propelled him to have his own Instagram account. For Rayeed, traveling is more important than saving up money or collecting material possessions. “When I am old, all I want to do is show my grandchildren all the places I have been to and all the experience I have gathered. That’s my end game.”
*Photo courtesy Shah Rayeed Chowdhury